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 Dog Behavior Library

Dog Eating or Rolling in Foul Stuff

This fixation with eating or rolling in noxious material is likely to affect your family's respect and affection for your dog over time; at least the hugs and wet kisses! Rolling is hypothesized to come from the instinct of predators to roll in a carcass to hide their own scent from their prey during the hunt. Current dogs who are not hunting are probably responding to this deep instinct, "It seemed like the right thing to do at the time."

Rolling is hypothesized to come from the instinct of predators to roll in a carcass to hide their own scent from their prey during the hunt.

That may be the original incentive, but we have to be careful a pattern doesn't develop. When a dog does something that repels people, the people react. Like an errant child, the dog finds out how to get a reaction. The more stinky, the bigger the reaction. The bad behavior becomes attention seeking behavior.

If you are confident there is no attention seeking component, you must keep the dog on a leash, or be prepared for the occasional bath after the fact. Another alternative is to employ a professional trainer to try to get to the true motivation, and to design a behavior modification plan.

If you think attention seeking might be a component, here are some suggestions. If you don't already own them, buy at least a dozen assorted Kong toys or other new indestructible chew toys. Begin to install very tasty food inserts, varying them, and washing and replacing often. Have several around outside, so they are easy to find. If he likes to fetch, throw them, and praise any attempt at return.

When on your walks, if he is "oral" by nature, encourage him to carry a Kong or tennis ball in his mouth constantly. Whenever he does, give more positive attention for this, than he ever got negative attention for funky stuff. Make it his job to carry a toy, which reduces other stuff into his mouth, and gives you a visual reminder to initially give almost a praise per step to communicate how clever he is. If he drops it, make it a game to try to find it, and play keep away for a few seconds, until he has to SIT to get it back.

If you see he is going to go for some foul target, call him to you, or whoop it up and run the opposite direction to get him to follow. Once he runs toward you, call COME and praise like this is his "second coming." This is where you say SIT (working for the reward makes it more valuable), then pull the smaller Kong from your pocket and if he will take it in his mouth, act like he just won the Pulitzer. If he still hasn't learned SIT, it is time to call in a professional trainer to help with the basics.

In general, when out on a walk, begin calling him to you when he is NOT focused on a find, and get him to COME and SIT for praise. Try for 30 times a day. Like weight lifting, repetition will build the COME muscle between his ears, and if he is heading off toward something bad, call him early, and insist he come. Consider having him drag a 20 foot rope you can step on if he ignores your COME Instruction. If he leaves a prize to COME to you instead, ignore the recent bad behavior, and praise the current good.

If he gets to something bad and is already munching, simply tell him NO (without a big scene), take it away, and be ready to substitute something positive. If you don't have a substitute chew toy, a second choice is to practice COME, SIT and give him a dog treat if you have one. Then back up, and repeat the COME, SIT a few times for practice. If no treat is available, do the COME, SIT but with "heavy petting" instead of the treat. If he only works for treats, begin to treat reward every other, then every third or fourth positive act. If you just don't have Kongs, treats, time or energy to redirect him this time, ignore the negative behavior; just don't give attention for the wrong thing unless prepared to give WAY more attention for doing the right thing.

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